Journalists need to be aware of their own biases when covering migration, panelists say at Knight Center’s 2nd Diversity Conference

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Self-exploration exercises, including immigrant journalists in newsrooms and telling stories for immigrants (and not just about immigrants) are some of the tips to promote more diverse and inclusive coverage of migration , according to the panelists who participated in the second Latin American conference on diversity in journalism.

The opening panel of the second day of the conference, on migration, brought together Ángeles Mariscal, Mexican journalist and collaborator for Chiapas Paralelo and Aristegui Noticias; Patricia Mercado, director and founder of the Mexican digital newspaper Conexión Migrante; and Héctor Villa León, Venezuelan journalist living in Peru and co-founder of Migrating capsule. They talked about migration with moderator Freya León, trainer at Puentes de Comunicación and editor-in-chief of Efecto Cocuyo.

Ángeles Mariscal started the conference by asking how stories are constructed in practice. That is to say, you have to start with a kind of “self-exploration” exercise in which journalists manage to understand how these values ​​”which permeate their whole being” and which are part of each person at everyday shape stories when they cover issues such as migration.

According to her, when migration and its coverage are generally discussed, the subject remains at the level of an analysis of public policies or best practices in journalism to cover migration. But little is said, she says, of the journalist himself.

“This part of self-analysis is extremely important, [to ask ourselves] from what perspective I create day-to-day narratives, what my opinions are, who I choose to interview and who I don’t. If there is a group of immigrants, if there is a caravan, the journalist always chooses, always, always. And we choose what we consider important,” Mariscal said. “What I want to put on the table is through what lens you look. Our reporter self watches and is part of the coverage.”

It is possible that looks full of xenophobia, racism and discrimination are part of the journalists, she said while giving a figure: 56% of Mexicans admitted to having had racist and discriminatory attitudes. The figure, which is part of the national survey on discrimination in Mexico, also shows that this discrimination is directed against people of different skin color, economic conditions or culture.

“We have to ask ourselves if we are not also part of this series of [anti] values, taboos and cultural opinions,” she said.

In the media, migration is generally presented as a factor of competition for resources, incidence of violence and crime, and even harm to a population. “We don’t stop much to see how much the journalist was for it and not the publisher [of the news outlet]. Let us be the ones who put on the table these situations which are detrimental to the integration of the immigrant population, to the respect of their rights and to their positive inclusion in society.

Héctor Villa León, who in addition to being a journalist is also an immigrant in Peru, called on mainstream mainstream media as well as indigenous digital media to include immigrant journalists in their newsrooms, or at least have in-depth knowledge of them. this subject.

In Peru, for example, the coverage by some media of the migratory wave of the Venezuelan community has led to the stigmatization of those who arrive in the country. Although this is not the language used in the media, social networks have echoed this stigma. It was common to use the word “veneco” in a derogatory way, Villa León said.

In the midst of this difficult situation, which was then aggravated by the COVID-19 pandemic, Cápsula Migrante was created. Its goal was to provide this population with the necessary information to help them cope with their condition as immigrants and the pandemic. According to Villa León, the pandemic has made the situation even more complicated for Venezuelan immigrants who, in addition to not receiving the necessary help, have not received information.

“It was a very complicated context for all countries, but Venezuelans practically did not exist for the media,” said Villa León. “There was a huge lack of information.”

The journalist insisted that in order to avoid these information gaps and stigmatizing narratives, immigrant journalists should be included either in the newsroom or as consultants. He also agreed with Madrigal on the need to look internally and strive to avoid discriminatory narratives.

“Journalists, above all, should make adjustments to be less stigmatizing and help integrate immigrants into the country,” Villa León said.

Panel on migration at the Second Latin American Conference on Diversity in Journalism (Photo: Screenshot)

The strategy of Patricia Mercado, of Conexión Migrante, has been from the beginning of the media to speak for immigrants and not immigrants because she understands them as a “constantly vulnerable population”. Governments through public policies as well as media through their narratives on migration.

Mercado, for example, spoke of contrasting numbers between racialized immigrants (from Mexico, El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Venezuela, among others) and Ukrainian immigrants seeking to enter the United States. While 12,000 humanitarian permits were processed for Ukrainians between January and April 2022, 9,600 applications have been processed for racialized people on Mexico’s northern border since March 2020.

Without ignoring the seriousness of the war in Ukraine, Mercado called for an analysis of the coverage of this difference.

“What kind of coverage were we doing at the time and what kind are we doing about migration on the continent?” Mercado asked. “We need to start thinking about what kind of coverage we do as media and what empathy we have or don’t have around the migration phenomenon. Starting with not calling them ‘illegal’ in the news , then telling the stories of immigrants’ effort, struggle and success, not just stories of when they are captured, deported or die.

She stressed the need to better understand the phenomenon, not only to better cover it but also in respect of the human rights of immigrants.

Mercado spoke about the differences between Latin American immigrants in the United States. For example, the very different conditions between those who have papers and those who do not. She said this leads to a lack of empathy among immigrants themselves. This is an aspect that the media should not neglect either.

She also stressed the need to talk about migration not only from the perspective of insecurity and the violence that generates it, but also issues such as climate change, which also contributes to migration. For this reason, she called on the media not to get bogged down in “platitudes”.

“[Not] cover immigrants only when tragedy strikes, only when it’s fashionable, only when politicians want to talk about it,” Mercado said. “When the tragedy ends, the coverage also ends. We need to present another face of migration, to help us accept and understand a phenomenon that is here to stay.”

The Migration panel is available here on the Knight Center YouTube channel.

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